Studying the Bible isn’t like studying any other book. The Bible is the story of God’s relationship with humanity, and it has the power to change your life because it is God’s living Word. Every moment is an opportunity for intimacy. Through the Bible, God reveals to us what He wants us to know about Himself. This growing knowledge builds intimacy through the intermediary work of the Holy Spirit.
Embedding Scripture in your mind and heart is a key step of spiritual growth for new believers and mature Christians alike.
A.W. Tozer wrote about this power in The Pursuit of God:
“The Bible is the inevitable outcome of God’s continuous speech. It is the infallible declaration of His mind for us put into our familiar human words. I think a new world will arise out of the religious mists when we approach our Bible with the idea that it is not only a book which was once spoken, but a book which is now speaking …a word of God once spoken continues to be spoken.”
The danger of studying the Bible as an academic exercise is the propensity for examining Scripture to become a chore, an intellectual activity drained of its soul-prospering power. But when you invite the Holy Spirit to guide your study, the Spirit will bring the Word to life with fresh insights and application.
In this article, you’ll learn four Bible study types and one study method applicable to most study types. Use these tools as you study the Bible in partnership with the Holy Spirit to enliven and vitalize your understanding and application of God’s Word so you can “rightly divide the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
The induction method of Bible study is more of a technique than a type of study. Use the induction method as a framework to undertake any study type in this article, except for word studies. If you’re reading through the Bible using a chronological reading plan, for example, then use the induction method at every session to ensure you get the most out of your time in the Word.
The induction method starts with observation, then moves on to interpretation and application.
Although there are no specific questions you must ask in the observation stage, some questions like these are helpful and should give you an idea of how to systematically observe a biblical passage. If you’re studying for a short time, then use a few questions to guide your observations. An in-depth study? Use as many observation questions as you need and add more of your own. *
· What is happening in the passage?
· Who wrote the book or passage?
· What is the writer’s background?
· Who appears in the passage?
· What is the time in history?
· Where do events in this passage take place?
· What words appear often?
· Do any words in the passage indicate a change, reversal, or contradiction within the passage?
· Why was the passage written? Sometimes the intent of the text is stated in the passage.
Once you’ve noted the facts, you’ll interpret them by the help of the Holy Spirit. The following questions and exercises may be useful:
· Paraphrase the passage in a few words or sentences. You’re aiming for the clearest meaning of the passage.
· What is the cultural or historical context of the passage that could illuminate the meaning of the text?
· Is this passage referred to elsewhere in Scripture? Check cross-references.
After you’ve explored the possible interpretations of a passage, you’ll do the most personal work of applying it to your life. This is a process of introspection, prayer, and partnership with the Holy Spirit. How can you apply the meaning of the passage to your walk with God?
Bible Study Types
If studying the Bible has become predictable and boring, then break up your study types using any of these four Bible study types.
Use the induction method to study a book of the Bible.
For short books, an induction study may take a few hours or less, but for longer books, you’ll likely commit a few days or a few weeks to its study. Book studies can bring a big picture view of historical events or doctrine and help you get to know a particular writer’s style.
The time invested in a book study should deepen and broaden your understanding of biblical concepts and your personal relationship with God as the Holy Spirit leads you through the book.
Character studies – the close scrutiny of a single person everywhere he or she appears in the Bible – is an opportunity to learn from one person’s relationship with God, whether good or evil. If their story was included in the Bible, then you can find encouragement and warning from their lives. Character studies
can be long and involved, such as studying the life and activity of King David, or completed in a single session, such as studying Tabitha or Jonah.
Topic studies take you on a journey through the Bible on the back of a single subject. It can help link together seemingly disparate topics into a story.
Take fasting, for example. As you explore the topic of fasting, you’ll be swept from Moses abstaining from food and drink while on God’s holy mountain receiving the Ten Commandments; along to Job in his mourning; David in his petitions and repentance; the wicked inhabitants of Nineveh changing their ways; Esther preparing to save her people; Daniel reminding God of His promise to bring Israel home; Jesus preparing for ministry; and to Paul reeling from his new commission as an apostle.
If a question is tugging at your heart or teasing your curiosity, then a topical Bible study may be the right choice.
Word studies can cause a plain passage to teem with hidden life under closer inspection.
Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament, has only about 8,000 words, which means that many words had to have more than one meaning; indeed, some words have numerous meanings, such as the word used to describe Adam’s rib, from which God made the first woman.
Translation from Hebrew to English, or Greek to Latin to English, often meant losing rich meaning in words that lack cultural context or don’t have a strong equivalent in English. Focusing on a meaningful, confusing, or prevalent word within a passage can shed light and context on a word that you might otherwise take for granted in its English translation.
Returning to the Hebrew word for rib (tsêlâ), Dr. Grady McMurtry, Christian apologist, and regent and adjunct professor at the School of Theology, Columbus, Georgia, teaches that tsêlâ has at least eight meanings, including the keel of a boat, an object with a rib-shaped curve, and “that which gives strength.” Eve, Adam’s helpmate and life partner, is made from that which gives strength.
Word studies offer insights into the nuances of language that open avenues to a fresh, yet ancient, view of God’s intentions in His Word.
Tool: Concordances and lexicons are available online at Bible study sites. Blueletterbible.org is one option.
Studying the Bible is an endeavor in growing intimacy with the Lord. Use these study types and methods, through prayer and guidance by the Holy Spirit, to bring new life to your examination of the Scriptures.
Would you like to learn to study the Bible in depth? Request your free information packet here: